We are all, at one point or another, forced to acknowledge when we are weak. It is a humbling moment filled with fear, shame and unattractive facial expressions. What's worse, weaknesses, like snowflakes, are all different so we are each forced to weather our respective storms alone. For instance, some people may find their limitations while huddled in frozen trenches under enemy fire, and others, say, at that blood drive last Wednesday where all that blood was just lying around and no one was doing anything about it.
We're all just going to pretend like this isn't a nightmare?
I do not like needles. I've overcome my fear of shots with the understanding that each one is bringing me that much closer to invincibility, but drawing blood seems counterintuitive. I don't like being penetrated in any capacity. Also, that blood is mine.
Last week, I managed to put my distrust of intentional bleeding aside for the opportunity to be a hero. I warmed to the idea of living inside another person's veins, transmitting glory like some magnificent virus, plus my ex-girlfriend and that doctor she married were working the event. If the note she left me before moving out was to be trusted, a willingness to face fears is a powerful trait in a spouse. So powerful, in fact, that it ruined a great relationship, and with any luck, it could ruin two.
The day did not go exactly as I planned. I ended up with the wrong nurse and passed out head first into a folding chair when she stabbed me. To my credit, she was glaringly incompetent. I told her right off the bat that I didn't like needles or loose blood and she answered back in a heavy sigh, "Boy, me neither." It was a bad start.
I sat down and looked away while she hunted for a vein, found several and then missed all of them. In total, she poked me four times before she hit something that spit hot, wet fluid down my forearm and made her scream.
"Don't look!" she told me.
"OK," I answered. I think.
Exactly as it happened, in my mind.
I felt whatever was inside my arm jerk around a little while she attached the tubing that would steal my life, then I heard her frantically wiping down the nearby area. "Oh god" she kept saying, but without much confidence that anyone was listening.
Finally, she walked into my line of sight and told me that we did it, everything was fine now. I followed her smile down to her baby-blue shirt and the deep red patterns of a murder scene splattered across her breasts. She seemed as surprised as me to see it. "Oh!" she said. "Gross."
I stood up, felt the cord pull out of my arm, flinging more blood around the room and I passed out.
I woke up to what sounded like someone smashing light bulbs in my mouth. When I opened my eyes I saw my old girlfriend standing over me, lovingly, gently stapling my head together. She never looked into my eyes but there was softness in her touch. Her hands felt practiced, experienced, pulling at pieces of my hairline and riveting them together with metal. I could have let her do it all day. Behind her the young nurse, still in her bloody outfit, writhed and squinted while she watched.
"I knew you'd come for me," I whispered.
"What are you doing here? You hate this stuff."
"I'm brave enough to face myself when I am afraid."
She sighed and finally looked me in the eye, "What the fuck are you talking about?"
"I don't know. I feel drugged."
"You are," said another voice, a man's voice. He leaned over, eclipsing her face with his own.
"Oh. It's that doctor you married," I said.
[Editor's Note: You can't use a picture of a penis in a surgical mask. We talked about this.]
"Husband," he said and tasted the word before spitting it at me. We gave you some pain killers, and got you hooked up to an antibiotic drip." He indicated to my arm where a massive hose was taped into my skin and feeding in god knows what. "I know these things freak you out a little but we can't be too careful with a head wound that size."
My ex finished up and shook her head sadly at me before walking out of the room with the other nurse. That doctor she married leaned in close, winked at me and showed off his stupid white teeth. "What made you decide to come down here today?"
I wanted nothing more than to tell him that I was going to destroy his marriage. "I'm going to destroy your marriage," I said. The drugs were really good.
He chuckled and nodded, "Yeah, I figured." He patted my chest and offered me the best of luck. I reached an arm up to fight him and he grabbed it expertly before putting two fingers on my pulse. "Looks like you're going to pull through. That means-"
"She still thinks about me," I said.
"No she doesn't. That means we're not keeping you here over night, as soon as we finish up the paperwork you can leave."
"She's probably thinking about me right now."
He stopped to look at me for a second, then pulled up a chair and sat down. "Do you see this I.V.?"
I told him I could.
"You may not know this but the human body is full of bacteria. In fact, in your body, bacteria outnumber human cells ten to one. From a ratio standpoint, that means you're more bacteria than you are person."
Pictured: The real you.
"Are you calling me bacteria?"
"Nope. It's true of everyone. It's nothing to be ashamed of, it's who we are. Makes us feel like ourselves. But this I.V. here is pumping in antibiotics that are going to kill nearly all the bacteria in your body. That means that when it's done, you'll only be a tenth of your regular self." He leaned in closer and whispered, "Hell, you'll barely exist." We both sat there trying to decide if we believed him. Then he added, "Truth is, you don't stand much chance of infection, but this is the closest I can get to killing you while still helping you." He stood and left.
Three hours later I had to pay $100 just to leave the hospital along with the promise to come back and pay more to get the staples removed. Driving home in the darkness I felt my head wound and smiled. I had come out richer for the experience. Sure, I had lost a lot of blood, and been inappropriately drugged, and told by a doctor he wanted me dead, but I had also had metal stakes driven into my head by the woman I love. I knew that regardless of how long they stayed together, even if it was for their entire lives, he would never have an experience as intimate as the one I just shared with her. Best of all, he had to stand there and watch.
It also felt nice to know he really was an asshole.
[Editor's Note: We'll allow it.]